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[personal profile] dmz2112

I find myself troubled.  This journal is not, as a rule, for detailing my personal life, but this particular issue is somewhat thematic, so I hope you’ll indulge me.

 

Last month, I turned 30.  The change was not immediate – realistically, I’ve been feeling it coming on for a number of months – but I do wonder if it is not at least subconsciously linked to beginning my fourth decade of life: I seem to all appearances to have grown out of tabletop roleplaying, just like my father always said I would.

 

I explained these feelings to a friend the other day, and said that I was feeling odd and depressed because I had always been defined by tabletop roleplaying.  He disagreed, replying that I had always been defined by telling a story, and that for many years roleplaying was the best way for me to exercise that interest.  I think he might be right, because that is exactly how I feel: I’ve reached a point in my storytelling career where telling a story through a group of participants has become inefficient and ultimately unsatisfying.  It’s not writing.  It’s barely even practice.

 

My dream job is writing for roleplaying games, whether they be tabletop games or computer games or console games.  But that’s not the same thing as sitting at a table with four friends and wrestling them through over-long combats and awkward interpersonal acting, and I’ve begun to realize that I can’t get there from here.  Even the best computer or console roleplaying game is still a linear experience at its core, no matter how many subplots it contains.  Even a play-by-post game is more an interactive novel than a true tabletop experience, by necessity.  Even tabletop roleplaying sourcebooks tell a story that ultimately has nothing to do with the people sitting around the table.  It is the gamemaster’s job to interpret these dense documents into something personal and enjoyable for the group, and that is what I’m tired of doing.  I’m tired of writing my story and then having to chop it up and shift it around and – in short – give someone else say in how my story goes.

 

I acknowledge that this sounds spectacularly selfish, but I do not feel unjustified.  Gamemastery is possibly the only art form that requires such input from one’s audience.  And that is good; it is all part of the fun of tabletop roleplaying.  The trouble is that it is no longer interesting to me.  What I want is an engaged audience that appreciates and recommends without actually being involved in the process.  I want to keep reading roleplaying game materials, and designing game systems, and writing stories, and having them bring people joy, but I no longer want to workshop them.  I want to be my own author.  I want to be a complete entity unto myself, and I want my audience to be a complete entity unto itself.

 

And who knows, next week I might realize this was all a fevered hallucination and that gamemastering tabletop roleplaying sessions is really where I belong.  But I doubt it.  I feel like change is on the wind, and it is time to grab my hang glider. 

 

It is a long drop.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-12 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] callitropsis.insanejournal.com
If your glider's in good shape you won't have to worry about the drop, and I think you've built it plenty sturdy.

I think what you're touching on is part of why I was much happier running a game than playing in one -- it's a little closer to that point of "Here's a story that I think is fun, and I want to share it with you." But still, as you note here, not quite the same, because the give-and-take is so thorough. I was never terribly good at giving up that much control to other people to make a story happen; even in written RP I usually prefer to have a set goal that both people have gone into the scene looking to accomplish together, to know that there's some agreement on what story we're telling and what elements it needs. (I think this is part of why it's easier for me to co-write with Kiwi than anyone else; we want similar enough things and we know what kind of stories the other expects, so we can do this with minimal pre-planning.)

And if it sounds selfish, well, I don't think there's anything wrong in that. Writing requires a certain amount of selfishness, I think -- to say, "This is the story I want to tell, and I will take the time to tell it, and I will give it the attention it needs" -- that's a selfish enterprise, but it's the only way that any substantial piece of storytelling ever happens (and we are lucky to have supportive people in our lives who understand that need for selfishness).

When you GM, you say, "This is the story I want to tell -- and here are half a dozen other people with stories to tell, each with their own main character, and somehow I am going to cause all these stories to happen at once." Which is a big job! And like many big jobs that we undertake out of love, sometimes one needs to step back and just...take a vacation. Maybe time off will make you remember how much you liked that collaborative process. Maybe it will just feel freeing, to tell stories that are yours and yours alone. Either way, I think it's a worthwhile endeavor.

Luck, brother.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-12 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmz2112.insanejournal.com
Thank you, Cal. Your support means so much. And you're right on all counts.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-12 06:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wallwalker.insanejournal.com
You know, I went through a similar crisis about a year ago, when I realized that I'd all but lost interest in fanfiction.

It was very, very strange. I'd been into reading and writing fanfic for ten years and had spent untold hours on it, and then, all of a sudden, I had nothing. No inspiration, no interest, no desire to deal with it anymore. I've done a few fanfic drabbles since then, to be fair, but for the most part most of what I've written since then are attempts at original fiction. The only derivative fictions of any size that I've written since last February were roleplaying campaigns, and even then I find myself writing more and more for games in original fantasy settings and less and less in established settings.

Perhaps you and I are going through a similar thing at this age (I'll be thirty in almost exactly nine months) but with different foci, if that makes any sense. I want to tell my own stories now; my focus has shifted to original settings, to attempting to build my own worlds instead of having them ready-made at the start. It sounds similar, at least on the surface, to what you're describing with your loss of interest with GMing. You want to tell your own stories, and not share authorship with other people at the table. I want to tell my own stories, and not share authorship with whoever created the world and characters I happen to be borrowing.

As for roleplaying, I still enjoy the idea of interactive stories. In fact, I only rarely would write the whole story before any given session. I enjoyed throwing bits and pieces of story at my players, letting them draw their conclusions based on their character backgrounds, and then running with it. I like the improvisational aspect of the game, even if I'm still not all that great at it. Of course, the whole tabletop thing is quite a bit newer to me than it is to you, and that's likely part of it.

At any rate, I'm rambling. Just wanted to let you know that I can relate, Sir.

Don't worry too much about the drop. Keep your nose up and watch for the updrafts. They certainly helped me.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-12 07:36 pm (UTC)
ext_107384: (Default)
From: [identity profile] laylah.insanejournal.com
I realize today is probably not a terribly convincing day for me to say this, what with the posting for the first time in months, but I've been feeling much the same way lately myself. My tenure in fanfic is shorter than yours -- this spring would be six years -- but I've been pretty prolific and I would have thought I was hooked for good.

Only I'm...finding it surprisingly easy to stop. Building a world from scratch and having characters that I can define all by myself is coming to seem far more rewarding, engaging on a level that fanfiction just...hasn't been for me lately.

I could probably come up with some theories about why, but I don't want to spam J's comments any more than necessary. But oh man, does that sound familiar. (...and I, also, am coming right up on 30.)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-12 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmz2112.insanejournal.com
It is pretty quiet around here. :) Spam all you like.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-13 01:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wallwalker.insanejournal.com
I don't know - I've gone through phases before where I just wasn't interested in fanworks for a while. But this is definitely the longest that one of my phases has lasted, and there's no end in sight. I've had a few brief flashes of inspiration, but for the most part I want to work on original fiction more and more and fanfiction less and less.

I do think that ownership is part of it, though. Like you say, we just want to build our own sandboxes now. :) Even if they're not as shiny-looking as the fandom ones. Or something like that; I'm failing at metaphors today. *laughs*

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-12 08:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmz2112.insanejournal.com
Thanks, Wally. :) I knew you'd understand my outlook.

I'm still interested in interactive stories, too, although I am probably not likely to apply rule systems to them anymore. I am thinking that I will move some roleplaying effort online -- to WoW, maybe, and definitely to some play-by-post or play-by-email games. Maybe to some IJ-based stuff. What I want to focus on is the writing, and where other people are involved, providing them with a coherent world. What I don't want is the hectic mess of tabletop -- the need for oratory, the lightning-fast thinking, and most importantly, the need for everyone at the table to be a vocal extrovert. Less chaos, more story.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-13 01:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wallwalker.insanejournal.com
Don't mention it. It helps to hear about someone else having the same sort of thing that I went through, even if the subject is a bit different. ^^

What I don't want is the hectic mess of tabletop -- the need for oratory, the lightning-fast thinking, and most importantly, the need for everyone at the table to be a vocal extrovert.

I think that's a need that most people don't realize is there (along with the need to be tolerant of people who talk over you and the need to be willing to talk over others if absolutely necessary.)

Shortly after I started this hobby, I realized that it's a highly social activity that happens to attract some highly asocial people. Realizing that made it much easier for me to deal with some of the interpersonal conflicts around the table, I think. (Yes, I realize that my statement is a vast generalization and doesn't apply to everyone. But I think that there's at least a grain of truth in it. Playing or running a tabletop game basically requires that you interact with others, usually cooperatively - that one Hackmaster game I had two characters killed in by other party members was an exception, I'm pretty sure - and quite a few of the gamers that I've met or heard about just don't seem to know how.)

I suppose that I still enjoy the chaos sometimes, although I don't try to use it as an outlet for serious storytelling anymore. Like I said, it's more of a "let's throw some ideas and such at these people and see how they take it" thing, and I've learned that my approach doesn't work for players who don't enjoy coming up with things on their own. Most of the people I've played with so far do enjoy it, but I've had a few that I've tried and failed to engage in the game, and there's not much I can do about it.

Likewise, I'm trying to play in a game that's basically a classic Dragonlance module, and I'm not really enjoying it because half of the people around the table know the story already and there's no real way to alter it in the game, and that automatically turns me off. If I want to tell a story like that, I write a story; if I want to be told a story like that, I read or listen to a story. Which seems to go along with what you've been saying.

At any rate, if you ever do get some sort of interactive fiction started, I'd definitely be interested, although I'm not sure how successful my attempt at participating would be; my track record so far is not promising. Still, I'm interested, even if it's just in reading it, so please let me know!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-15 06:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmz2112.insanejournal.com
Shortly after I started this hobby, I realized that it's a highly social activity that happens to attract some highly asocial people.

That's it in a nutshell, right there. Bingo. For me, it's not about conflict so much as it is about a total lack of involvement. I could deal with some real conflict, to be honest. The only conflict that goes on at my table is over rules. If my players and their characters were in conflict, at least that would be interaction! They're all individually willing to interact with me, to a certain degree, but getting involved with each others' characters does not seem to be an option. After years of playing together! And I have to say that I've just had it. There's no investment there. Not really. When I hear about other gaming groups, the thing I more than anything else is players who are as interested in each other as they are in the game. That has never happened at my venue. Maybe it's me. I dunno. But I'm done with it, at least for now.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-01-16 01:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wallwalker.insanejournal.com
It really varies for me. The first cluster of people I gamed with (the group that I played RuneQuest with and then ran Shadowrun for) were great about that sort of thing. There were times during my games when I didn't have to prompt at all; they would make their own plans, and I could just sit back and plan ways to mess up their plans and occasionally throw something out as an NPC contact. (Not that I was good at reacting to their plans, although I did get better.) Part of it was the fact that we did have two or three players who particularly enjoyed interacting with the others around the table, more than they liked, say, blowing stuff up. Also there was the fact that we all knew each other well and weren't shy about doing crazy stuff to and with each other's characters. It was awesome, and I think that they spoiled me for other groups, because the other groups of people that I've played with don't have nearly that level of interaction. The nWoD game that I've just joined comes the closest, I think.

I do wonder how much the DM and the system both have to do with that. I know that some DMs don't care about social interaction and just want their groups to roll dice and hit things. My first GM actively encouraged us to develop characters and interact with each other, and I did the same. And I think that some systems are just naturally more (or less) geared toward interplayer interaction than others.

I don't know, and I'm running out of time to ramble about it today. ^^;
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